Stalin's Slave Ships: Kolyma, the Gulag Fleet, and the Role of the West

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003 - History - 217 pages

Between 1932 and 1953, a fleet of ordinary cargo ships was pressed into extraordinary service. The fleet's task was to relocate approximately one-million forced laborers to the Soviet Gulag in Kolyma, located along the Arctic Circle in far northeastern Siberia. The Kolyma Gulag, the most infamous in the Soviet Union, was accessible only by sea, and the fleet became the lifeblood of the entire operation. As one of the largest seaborne movements of people in history, this transport took a devastating toll on human lives. Bollinger presents the often-horrific stories of the Gulag fleet and its passengers and reveals the unwitting role of the United States government in the operation.

U.S. shipyards built most of the Gulag fleet, and the U.S. government sold many of the ships used in the transport directly to an agent of the Soviet Union. The United States also overhauled and repaired many ships in the Gulag fleet free of charge at the midpoint of their Gulag careers. In some cases, free ships provided to the Soviet Union under the Lend Lease military assistance program were diverted into Gulag transport duties. How much did Washington know about the deadly duty of these ships? How many prisoners made the voyage? How many never made it out alive? Bollinger details this tragic tale using firsthand testimony from those involved in the operation and materials from both American and Russian archives.


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The Labor Camps at the End of the World
Development of the Gulag Fleet
Prisoner Transport Operations
Below Decks The Prisoners Stories
Shipwrecks in the Far North
Did Twelve Thousand People Starve to Death on Dzhurmeti
Questions of Numbers Correcting the Historical Record
The Western Connection
What Did the West Know and When Did It Know It?
Kolyma Today
Other WesternBuilt Ships of the Gulag Fleet
SovietBuilt Gulag Ships
Selected Bibliography

The NKVDs Ships

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About the author (2003)

MARTIN J. BOLLINGER is a full-time management consultant with a leading strategy and technology consulting firm, specializing in business and operations strategy for the aerospace, defense, and transportation industries. In his spare time, he researches and writes about maritime history. He has lived and worked in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, and currently resides in Great Falls, Virginia.

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